3 Dream Magic Rituals And Practices

Photo by Ann Danilina on Unsplash

Photo by Ann Danilina on Unsplash

This article first appeared on Luna Luna and has been republished with permission.

Sleep is a kind of medicine. It rejuvenates the body, but it also expands our minds, lets us play in other realms, and invites us to listen in on our subconscious. In dreaming, we receive messages and insights — which we can question and reflect on. We are our own oracles, in a sense.

The ancient Greeks believed that pre-sleeping rituals — bathing or refraining from eating fish or meat — would lead to specific kinds of dreams. Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep (the actual personification of sleep) was the son of darkness (Erebus) and night (Nyx). Hypnos lived in the underworld, full of poppies and plants capable of lulling you into a soft, dark slumber. 

Through the underworld ran the river Lethe (which means 'forgetfulness,’ ‘oblivion,’ ‘concealment’, ‘unmindfulness’), an interesting intersection invoking that liminal state between awake and asleep, where we store our intuitions and risk forever forgetting what we’d just dreamt or learned. But more so, it’s easy to forget that which is and is not real, that which sinks into the depths of otherworldy waters, swept into a current that leads away from our waking state. And I find that so beautiful.


So, when we journal our dreams, we call on that place, that river, those memories. And we train our minds to live not only here — in the waking state — but down under, where messages and ancestors and our Selves live. Doing this can also help us begin to lucid dream, although that is a story another time!

Upon waking, immediately write down or record your dreams or dream fragments, noticing:

  • colors
  • weather, foliage, atmospheres & cosmos

  • themes (rushing, being lost, exploring, abandonment, dancing)

  • moods and senses

  • rooms or places, unknown spaces

  • emotions within the dream

  • people, archetypes or obscure or out-of-picture figures

  • dreams within dreams or memories, or the collapsing of reality and dream-space

  • powers or lack thereof

  • how you feel upon waking up

  • magical influences and abilities

  • desires, vices, hunger, needs

  • recurrent dreams (are they the same, or slightly different?)

  • words (spoken or read or even felt) that recur or that stand out

  • time in which the dream occurred (night, day, during a moon phase or when the moon is a certain sign or during an astrological season)


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When we take part in ritual, we are celebrating, honoring, and calling on the richness of being alive. In ritual, we make choices, cast intentions, connect with our bodies, archetypes, and power objects, and we recognize our one-ness with the great unknown. We build a sacredness into our lives.

Whether we are taking a secular approach, or calling on ancestors, angels, or gods, we are tapping into big magic. How beautiful, how autonomous, how sacred — to visualize and conjure and cast, to create a space and fill it with energy and light and shadow?

And in a sense, sleep rituals allow us to bookend our days with magic. But they also can help us get some control over our sleep problems, like sleep paralysis (which I have, and which is often triggered by poor sleeping patterns and extreme stress), nightmares and terrors, or insomnia. If these are bad enough, we may begin to dread sleep or the sleeping environment. I know because I’ve been there!

to create a sleep ritual, one of poetry and beauty, of intentional and safety, follow these steps:

    • First, create a space that feels soft, comfortable and safe for yourself. Use color magic to invoke sleep: Blue has been shown to reduce heart rates and blood pressure, while purples and silvers call on a liminal, otherworldly place. This should be your bedroom, but perhaps it’s a space you go before sleep – a nook, a little loft space, a room with a fireplace or a window looking toward the moon.

    • Create an air spritz to use before bed — perhaps it's moon-water (water charged by the moon) with rose petals or lavender. Perhaps you charged water with an amethyst? The purpose is to set a tone, to prepare the space for sleep. You want to associate this spritz with positivity, safety, and softness. Create a sigil (a magical symbol made up of words and letters) that you can tape or draw onto the bottle that represents joyous and nourishing sleep.

    • You might choose to bathe, stretch, dance for a few moments to get your body loose and soft, or simply listen to music while you quiet your mind. No bright lights or electronics. Dab a bit of valerian root oil onto the back of your neck or the bottom of your feet.

    • Light a single candle and stare into its flame, asking to be lulled into a gentle sleep. Decide that you will remember and learn from your dreams. Simply opening your mind to this desire opens the gates.

    • Write a pre-sleep poem that invokes Hypnos or any other images or ideas or messages that you are seeking. Maybe it invokes a night of sleep without nightmares or distractions? Training yourself to call on these guides or images will help your mind remember that you intentionally entering the sleep state. That you have the control.


Healing your shadow self requires as much a commitment to self-care (sleep, nutrition, movement, kind self-thoughts) as it does mining the abyss (asking the hard questions, doing the hard work of paying attention to your real desires and fears, and excavating childhood trauma). The dark well within us is a keeper of our pain, but it is also the space where we bloom.

When we take proper care of ourselves (which can be hard when we feel undeserving or exhausted), we can peer into our guilt and shame or fear and trauma — without losing ourselves to it. We can learn from it and learn to better manage it.  Paying attention to our nightmares is a huge part of shadow work — but we must be willing to take notice of what we’re feeling, seeing, and remembering.

Use the prompts above to examine the facets of your nightmare after your wake — but use your intuition to question your dreams' core meaning. Journaling, stream-of-conscious, without questioning, editing, or censorship, usually helps us get down all of the details, even the weird ones. Don’t worry if it makes sense. Your slumber language, a sort of nightmare dialect, will begin forming in time.

What about the nightmare made you feel empty, scared, jarred, and just plain off. It’s probably best to keep a separate journal just for nightmares, as these dark dreams are ripe with very specific information and ideas about ourselves and the uncomfortable, toxic, or dark influences in our lives.

When you dream of running through a dark alleyway, who and what are you running from?

When you dream of forever missing the train, why are you missing it? 

What is the dream about on the surface? But what is it really about?

Are your dreams telling you something you’re not willing to hear?

When we settle in and get ready for truth — however harsh, cold, or intense it may be — we give ourselves a chance to get the truth out, to stop hiding from it, to start learning to manage it.

But it’s important to journal through these feelings while maintaining proper self-care. It is all a heavy process — imperfect, challenging and often lonely — that yields healing over time and with patience and self-compassion. And it doesn’t have to be done overnight.

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